Sunday, November 29, 2009

Victorian Christmas at Sir George-Étienne Cartier's

Guess what I did today? I went with my parents and Daughter to see the Victorian Christmas exhibit at Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site of Canada (that's in Old Montréal by the way). I had been wanting to go ever since I found out about it last year. We even got sit for "The Art of Entertaining" presentation, where butler Thomas Vincent told us how a Victorian Christmas dinner (and other period dinners) would happen, what would be served, what was considered polite, etc. It was interesting... But I have to admit, I was a little disappointed.

Dinning Room - Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site of Canada

First of all, I learned that I already knew most of what our guide told us, and on some subjects even more, because some of the things he said made no sense. For instance, he kept comparing food and services with previous periods as well as the present) and he kept saying that in Medieval times, people only ate soup with made from whatever they could find, which might have been somewhat true for the poor, but as he was comparing this to what a wealthy Victorian family would serve... It's like comparing apples and sushi.

And second (since this is not a Food blog), I saw barely any costumes! The butler was in full Victorian getup, complete with gloves, vest and tailcoat, and he did first come in with his apron and sleeve protectors, but, you know, I always want more.

Living Room - Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site of Canada

The exhibit was nice. I love history, so it was great to see antique Christmas decorations as well as the house's rooms furnished decorated as if it was really Christmas 1865 (oh what I would give to do a photo shoot of a Victorian costume in one of these rooms - it would be the perfect backdrop). It is only 3.90$ to visit the house and exhibit so if you're in the neighborhood and love history too, you should definitely go.

And now, for the few costumes I managed to take pictures of to bring to you. I have to quickly mention that I just had time to snap pictures before the "The Art of Entertaining" activity began, and once it was over, they let us visit the house quickly before closing for lunch, so dummy me, I didn't read the cards explaining what each costume was. I'll have to give you my best guess (which shouldn't be too off).

This represents Sir Georges-Étienne Cartier whose house we were in. For those of you who have never heard of him, he was Prime Minister of Canada East from 1858 to 1862 and is a Father of the Confederation. Here we see him in a double-breasted Frock Coat, a typical Victorian Men's Jacket.

Cassock and Shoulder Cape

The Catholic clergy had a predominant place in French Canadian (Québec) culture until the 1960's. Now I'm no expert on religious clothing but from what I could gather in my quick research on the subject, this is a cassock and a shoulder cape, complete with pectoral cross. Since the whole thing is purple, this is most likely a Bishop's costume.

If you know more on the subject would like to add anything, that would be great.

Soldier's Uniform and Victorian Day Dress

Once again, I'm not very knowledgeable about soldier's uniform, but I can tell you a little about the dress: it is a Victorian Day Dress, and I'm guessing, from the shape, that it is probably circa 1860. You know it's a day dress because the bodice has long sleeves and a high neck.

Gwenyver and Daughter in front of the Pretty Costumes

I do want to thank the staff at the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site of Canada for letting me take pictures, and a special thanks to the "Butler", Thomas Vincent, for his patience with my Baby who made cute noises during his entire two hour presentation (he even reacted to her sounds, patting her on the head for agreeing with him). Same goes for the other guests who never uttered a word or a sigh. Thank you very much.

And even though I'm a pain for being difficult about the information I was given, I did enjoy his presentation quite a lot. He was passionate about his subject and that always keeps me attentive.

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